Meet Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Neil Gorsuch
As the nation rallied at international airports this weekend, Senate and Congressional Democrats are gearing up for a fight at the steps of the highest court in the land. This battle is expected to take center stage after President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch this Tuesday evening. Judge Gorsuch has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for over a decade. Gorsuch is known to be an adherent of originalism — the belief that the original intent of a law’s authors should guide judicial interpretation.
At 39, Neil Gorsuch became one of the country’s youngest federal appeals court judges. He’s Ivy educated and is plugged into the Republican establishment. His mother, Anne Gorsuch, served as Ronald Reagan’s EPA administrator and later resigned after being found in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a congressional records request.
Gorsuch’s jurisprudence is thought to closely align with the late Justice Antonin Scalia and believes that judiciary members should have greater power than elected officials.
Judge Gorsuch is a proponent of providing deference to religious freedom arguments. In Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores, Gorsuch sided with the company in allowing employers to withhold contraceptive healthcare coverage on the grounds of their religious beliefs. And while Gorsuch has never directly ruled on an abortion case, in his 2009 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, he emphasized his belief on the dignity of human life, stating that “the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
The filling of the court vacancy left by Antonin Scalia’s death in 2015 has been a major issue for both parties due to the Republican Senate’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings for former President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. Confirmation of Gorsuch would break the current 4–4 ideological stalemate of the Court.
Prior to President Trump’s announcement, both sides of the aisle made it clear that a battle is brewing. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) gave an interview Monday morning stating his intent — with the support of the majority of his caucus — to filibuster any nominee that is not Merrick Garland. If Democrats follow through, it would be the second time in modern history that a filibuster has been mounted against a nominee.
Merkley’s interview makes it clear that Senate Democrats have not forgiven Senate Republicans for derailing Garland’s nomination.
“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat. We will use every lever in our power to stop this.” — Sen Jeff Merkley
If Merkley is able to gain the support of 41 Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may invoke the nuclear option. This would entail a changing of the confirmation process to that of a simple majority — a rule enacted last by former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
To avoid this, McConnell would need 8 Democrats to support the president’s nominee. While he has not explicitly stated whether he would enact such a change, he has guaranteed that Trump’s nominee will be confirmed — an implicit threat to Senate Democrats.
There have been some reports that not all Senate Democrats feel the same way as Merkley. If a filibuster prompts a rules change by McConnell, any other court vacancy that may arise before midterms, the nominee would almost certainly be approved.
Conservatives have been preparing for battle as well. The same day Trump released his controversial executive order on immigration (an order that very well may end up before the SCOTUS), a “de facto war room” gathered at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This group, comprised of White House staff, the Senate GOP leadership, and outside organizations, began to draw up plans for the confirmation fight. They have accrued over $10 million to use in support of Trump’s nominee. This is in addition to the $7 million already spent to block Garland. The majority of this financial support comes from the Judicial Crisis Network — an organization founded in 2005 to promote the judicial appointees of former president George W. Bush.
Like Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, even if Democrats filibuster and McConnell changes the rules, Judge Gorsuch will eventually be confirmed. President Donald Trump will end his administration with a conservative Supreme Court that will reverberate for decades.